Posts Tagged ‘writing’

As promised yesterday, here’s the list of what I hope to accomplish writing-wise in 2014.

1. Since writing magazine stories is my major source of income right now, I plan to write and submit one story per month for a total of twelve.

2. I want to get back to the contemporary romance series I stalled out on last year, so I plan to revisit and complete my character sketches for the first book, work out a detailed outline and write the first draft.

3. While that draft is cooling off, I want to work on the characters for the next book in the series and work out a detailed outline for that.

4. I’ll then reread, revise, edit and research publishers I want to submit to. I’d like to have the manuscript completed and begin submitting before the end of the year.

5. While waiting to hear back from publishers, I want to begin writing the first draft of the second book.

I’m hoping I can at least accomplish these goals for 2014. I do plan to eventually get back to historicals, starting with a new time travel, but want to get the contemps completed first to hopefully draw a new audience for my work.

Wishing all of my readers a very happy New Year!

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I’ve gotten back into my work-in-progress, just have a few more scenes left to write, but in the final scenes, the heroine is kidnapped by the villain. He subdues and transports her using chloroform.

This story is set in 1867, just a few years after the American Civil War ended. By the time that war had initially began, in 1861, ether and chloroform had been used for several years as a surgical anesthesia.

Both were widely used by military doctors in performing amputations and other surgical procedures on both the Union and Confederate sides.

Chloroform is also known as trichloromethane. It is produced through the chlorination of methane gas. In 1831 it was developed by a chemist named Dr. Samual Guthrie. He combined it with whiskey to produce a cheap pesticide. But it was Scottish physician, Sir James Young Simpson, who used the sweet, colorless, and non-flammable liquid as an anesthetic. It was administered by dripping the liquid onto a sponge or cloth and held over the nose and mouth of the patient. Chloroform had a narcotic effect on the central nervous system and worked more quickly than ether.

However, higher risks were associated with chloroform if not administered carefully. Reports of fatalities due to the paralysis of the lungs, led to more patients refusing any type of anesthesia during surgery.

But use of chloroform spread, and in 1853, Queen Victoria used it to ease the pain of the birth of her eigth child with Prince Leopold.

Military doctors used chloroform as early as the Mexican-American war (1846-1848). By 1849 it came into official use by the United States army. Chloroform eased out ether as the more popular anestetic due to the drug’s fast acting quality as well as large numbers of postitive results. Chloroform was widely used during the American Civil War to reduce pain and trauma of amputations and other surgical procedures.

Both ether and chloroform declined in usage after the development of safer and more effective drugs were developed. In the 20th century, chloroform was shown to be carcinogenic when ingested by lab mice and rats. But it is still used in aerosol propellents, dental products and topical liniments.

For more information about the history of chloroform, visit these sites:



http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/oUeLRHN6SCW7S9OpK_-RRQ http://www.chloroform.co.uk/

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In trying to come up with a history post for my ‘Monday Inspiration’ blog, I realized I’ve already covered a lot of subjects included in my new work- in-progress.

But the real problem is, I’ve really slowed down in writing my first draft. It’s not that I’ve lost interest in the story, I just can’t bring myself to sit down at the computer and write. There’s always something else I could be doing first. And by the time I get that done, I look at the clock and decide it’s too late to start on a serious writing session.

I usually experince procratination when finishing up a project, so don’t know why I’m going through this now. And it’s not that I’m stuck, because I’ve outlined the entire story, scene by scene, so know what I’ll be writing about and whose point of view I’ll be writing that scene in.

It’s frustrating because I’d hoped to have completed the first draft by the end of the summer and leave it aside to cool for a few months while I worked on short stories.

I’m torn between forcing myself to finish that draft, and putting is aside to work on a few short stories. Then maybe I can reread and come back to it with new enthusiam.

For you other writers out there, what do you do when you just can’t get in the mood to work on your current story?

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“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a lucky sixpence in your shoe.”

This wedding tradition originated from an old English rhyme, likely in the 16th century, but came into vogue in the Victorian period, when Queen Victoria sat on the throne of England.

In my new work-in-progress, set just after the Civil War in America, the hero marries the heroine top protect her from an Irishman who falsely claims to be her husband. The man means to force her to accompany him back to New York City to work in a brothel.

So, the hero marries her in a short, intimate home setting hoping to drive the villain away. Although this quick wedding in my story won’t be lavish, by any means, I’ll share my research into Victorian era weddings here.

In the 19th century, the wedding day was the most important day in a girl’s life. In this time period, a mother would have prepared her daughter for this moment from the time she was born. A young girl had no other ambition in life than to marry and marry well.

The bride chose the day of her wedding and even this was influenced by superstition. June was a popular month, having been named for the Roman goddess, Juno. She was the goddess of marriage and would bring prosperity and happiness to all who wed in that month. Also if a woman married in June, she’d likely give birth to her first child in the Spring, which would allow her to recover in time for the fall harvest.

June also signaled the arrival of warm weather and the end of Lent. Winter clothing could finally be shed and one could partake in the annual bath. But other months, April, October and December were also favored for weddings in the Victorian period. These three months were chosen because they wouldn’t conflict with peak farm work months. October signified a bountiful harvest.

May was considered an unlucky month. Thus the proverb: “Marry in May and rue the day.”  But if you “Marry in September’s shine, your living will be rich and fine.”

In the Southern United States, April was popular because it wasn’t as hot and the favorite flowers of bride’s, jasmine and camellia, were in bloom.

Days of the week, also had their own superstitions:

“Marry on Monday for health,
Tuesday for wealth,
Wednesday the best day of all,
Thursday for crosses,
Friday for losses, and
Saturday for no luck at all.”

No weddings were performed on the Sabbath day.

Over the centuries, brides did not always wear white on their wedding day and the color of the gown was thought to influence the couples’ future.

“White – chosen right
Blue – love will be true
Yellow – ashamed of her fellow
Red – wish herself dead
Black – wish herself back
Grey – travel far away
Pink – of you he’ll always think
Green – ashamed to be seen.”

Queen Victoria changed the tradition of choosing colors for gowns when she wore white for her wedding in 1840. Since that time, white has remained the color of bridal gowns.

An early Victorian wedding gown had a fitted bodice, small waist, and a full skirt over hoops and petticoats. The material could be organdy, tulle, lace, gauze, silk, linen or cashmere. Fine gauze, sheer cotton or lace fashioned the veil.

During this period, a formal wedding was all white, which included the gowns of all the attendants. A coronet of flowers crowned the head with the veil attached to the back. Orange blossoms were a staple for the bride to carry and roses or other in-seasons flowers for the attendants.

American frontier brides usually wore cambric, wool or linen dresses in a variety of colors. Their dresses had to be reused later for special events and for church. They would cover their wedding dresses with colorful shawls in paisley, or plaid. In winter, a warm shawl was more cherished than a wedding dress.

In the late Victorian period, around 1870, middle class wealth brought with it a display of wedding gowns fashioned in Paris.

If a widow remarried, she wouldn’t wear white, but a pearl or lavender satin gown trimmed with ostrich feathers, but would wear no veil or carry orange blossoms.

The marriage ceremony could take place at home or in church. The wedding ring was usually a plain gold band with the couple’s initials and wedding date inside. It was considered good luck for the ring to drop during the ceremony to shake all evil spirits out.

The custom of throwing rice originated in Roman times when nuts were thrown. In this period,  rice, grain or birdseed was thrown as a symbol of fertility.

Weddings were held early in the day, so the reception was usually a breakfast. In early Victorian times, three cakes were made. An elaborate wedding cake, plus two separate cakes for the bride and groom. The main wedding cake was usually a dark, rich fruitcake, while the bride had a white cake, the groom a dark cake. These would be cut into pieces for the attendants.

The Victorians followed traditions steeped in superstitions and age-old customs, many of which we still follow today, although we have no clue they were meant to drive away evil spirits.

For more on weddings in the Victorian era, visit these sites:






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My new work in progress features an Irish heroine, who escaped to America after being sent to Austrailia to work as an indentured servant. This new story is based on my award winning romance novel, Confederate Rose. The heroine of that story is also from Ireland and fought in the American Civil War as did many Irish on both sides of this conflict.

Both England and America experienced a large influx of Irish immigrants during the Victorian era. While some of this was due to the potato famine, a great deal of the problem began back in the mid-17th century, when Oliver Cromwell invaded Ireland. Landowners who refused to give up Catholicism had their property confiscated and given to members of the English Army.

Between 1841 and 1851, Ireland’s population of 8 million had dwindled down to 6 million. An estimated half of these people left the country while the other million died.

One million emigrated to England and America, overwhelming both countries. America saw this surge of immigration between 1815 and 1845. The Irish had few technical skills, but were healthy and strong. They became a much needed source of cheap labor.

In England the Irish lived on the absolute fringes of Victorian society. They became unskilled day laborers and street peddlers.

Thomas Malthus, noted English economist explained the earlier famines and starvation in Ireland as God’s answer to overpopulation of those who refuse to show constraint.

“. . . emigrating to America was not a joyful event . . . They left in droves on ships that were crowded, with conditions so terrible, that they were referred to as Coffin Ships.” http://www.kinsella.org/history/histira.htm

English oppression had made their country unlivable for them. Their only hope was to escape. Poor immigrants were forced to settle in their port of arrival, having no means of moving on.

The offers of free land out west during this time period meant little to the Irish. The land back in Ireland had failed them, so they looked to other means of making a living in their new country.

For more info on Irish immigration, visit these sites: http://www.kinsella.org/history/histira.htm



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In my new work-in-progress, the hero is a late nineteenth century physician. This character originally appeared as a minor character, a friend of the hero, in my 2009 Civil War romance, Confederate Rose. In that novel, he served as a physician in the Union army, but now practices at home in a small Pennsylvania town in a rural setting.

In the story, he travels to his patients’ homes to treat illnesses and wounds caused by accidents.

The late eighteen-hundreds saw many advances in both medical knowledge and technology. As a result, the medical profession itself went through drastic changes. The acceptance of germs causing diseases, unheard of before the nineteenth century, along with research of the human body and development of specialized tools, caused a revolution in treatments of illness. The practice of hygiene, put into use during the American Civil War, aided patients and improved outcomes for recovery.

Late nineteenth century physicians visited patients’ homes or occasionally worked out of an office in their own home. Doctors in rural areas needed to be able to travel in a wide area. Doctors would travel by foot or horseback and needed to carry tools and drugs they could pack into a small case or saddlebag.

During the Industrial Revolution, hospitals in big cities were looked on as being dirty, breeding grounds for disease and infection. Because doctors didn’t practice methods for keeping germs from spreading from patient to patient, a hospital stay would likely cause a person to contract a new disease, so people avoided them.

Because most doctors worked in large geographic areas, they were expected to treat such ailments as toothaches, stomach aches, fevers and even sick livestock. It wasn’t until later in the century that doctors developed specialties in medicine.

Even surgical procedures would be carried out in a patient’s home. Anesthesia was not widely in use until the end of the century, so complex surgeries weren’t usually performed. And the types of anesthesia available, ether or chloroform, could asphyxiate a patient. Antiseptic practices also weren’t common until the turn of the century, so a surgical risk of infection after the fact ran high.

To learn more about nineteenth century physicians and advances in medicine, visit these sites:




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For my new work-in-progress, The Physician’s Irish Lady, the heroine is about to board a train and splurges on a second class ticket, since she can’t abide sitting in the open third class car. But now, she doesn’t have enough cash to buy a meal on the train. Her solution is to buy a loaf of bread to munch on during the long ride.

So, what type of coin would be required to purchase such a meal?

According to the reference book, The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s, in the early 1800s in mostly rural America, money was rarely used. Farmers relied on barter or trade to make purchases, most never having seen a silver dollar.

By mid to late 1800, the situation changed as people left farming to work at jobs in the growing cities. By this time, more ready made goods of a wide variety were available for purchase.

Coinage changed over the years with such names as bit, coppers, dime, eagle and double eagle, elevenpence, fip, gold dollar, silver dollar, half cent, half dime and half dollar. The wide variety of currency names were due to the influence of English, Spanish and other foreign coinage. Some coins even had nicknames, as in levy for elevenpence.  There were also combination coins as in: three-cent piece, three-dollar gold piece, twenty-cent piece and two-cent piece.

Paper money was known as United States Notes. The legal tender notes or greenbacks had been issued by the US government in 1862 in the northern states, during the Civil War. The original dollar bill didn’t have a portrait of George Washington, but instead Salmon Chase, Secretary of Treasury, in the upper left hand corner. The familiar George Washington dollar bill was first printed in 1869.

Source: The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s by Marc McCutcheon. Writer’s Digest Books, 1993, Cincinnati, Ohio

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